Notes: Cora living through Boston's offense

Sale throws from 120 feet; Gonzalez slots in at short on Bogaerts' day off

April 8th, 2021

In 3,825 plate appearances over 14 MLB seasons, Alex Cora spent plenty of time in a batter’s box. He saw and swung at his fair share of pitches, but Cora was never the most aggressive hitter. As a manager, he wants to see players take a more swing-happy approach than he did.

“I tell them, jokingly, that I live my offensive struggles through them,” Cora said before Thursday’s game against the Orioles. “Kind of like, whatever I wanted to do, but I wasn’t able to do; I love when they swing 3-0, I love when they swing 2-0. I didn’t do that. It’s kind of like my fantasy team, you know? Like, go ahead. It’s cool.”

If the Red Sox were in fact Cora’s fantasy team, he’d have put up a ton of points the past few games. After a sluggish start in their opening series against Baltimore (.448 OPS in three games), Boston churned out double-digit hits in three straight games against Tampa Bay.

In that series, which the Red Sox swept, they posted a team slash line of .339/.381/.522 against the reigning American League champs. Cora credited his group with jumping on pitchers early in counts.

“There’s value in that first pitch,” Cora said. “Guys like to get ahead. If you put a good swing on it, it’s an extra-base hit or you can shy him away from the strike zone. We’ll stay with the same approach, but we’ve got to stay in the middle of the field.”

No Red Sox hitter has hunted the first pitch more than third baseman Rafael Devers, who so far has swung at 61.9 percent of debut offerings he’s seen (MLB average is 27.9 percent). The results haven’t followed yet for Devers, who is just 2-for-19 (.105) with five strikeouts and zero extra-base hits. But the 24-year-old’s confidence hasn’t wavered.

“It’s early, there’s gonna be ups and downs, but I feel really good about where I’m at with my swing,” Devers said through translator Bryan Almonte.

Cora added that he doesn’t think Devers is “that far off” from breaking out. Since 2019, Devers ranks sixth in MLB in average exit velocity (92.4 mph) among players with at least 500 plate appearances.

Sale throwing from 120 feet
Cora still isn’t able to provide a timeline for when Chris Sale (left UCL tear) will return to throwing on a mound. But Sale is throwing at 120 feet now, Cora said, as he continues working back from Tommy John surgery conducted in March 2020.

Sale is staying in Boston for the time being, and Cora noted how mutually beneficial it’s been having the seven-time All-Star around.

“Just to be around his teammates and talk baseball and just be part of the team,” Cora said. “That helps him a lot and hopefully that makes him better. It’s not that we want to push him, ‘Oh, you feel better. Now we’re gonna push you.’ But I know he’s very excited. We talked a little bit [before Wednesday’s game]. He’s feeling good about where he’s at.”

Sale will remain in Boston at least through the next homestand, which ends on April 25. As his rehab process ramps up, the team will reassess whether to move him to the Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

Gonzalez solidified as backup shortstop
With Xander Bogaerts receiving a scheduled day off on Thursday, Cora opted to slot Marwin Gonzalez in at shortstop. And the Red Sox's manager made it clear that that’s where Gonzalez will play, in the absence of Bogaerts, moving forward.

“I do believe that Marwin played good shortstop in Spring Training, although he hasn’t played much the past few years,” Cora said of Gonzalez, who has appeared at the position just once in the past two seasons. “But I saw it firsthand, and you saw that he made sound decisions.”

Enrique Hernández also has the ability to play short, but Cora said he’ll “most likely” use Hernández at second base when he needs to pencil him in on the infield.